Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is once again confronting questions about problems in the nation's largest jail system. The latest allegations center on whether deputies in his department routinely denied bail to people arrested for minor offenses — even after they were ordered released by a judge — solely because of pending immigration investigations.
The sheriff's office denies that such a policy exists, although it acknowledges that the department holds immigrants under a federal immigration enforcement program known as Secure Communities. Baca says that program requires him to hold someone suspected of being in the country illegally, if called upon to do so by federal immigration officials, while the arrestee's immigration status is confirmed.
But Secure Communities only allows the sheriff to hold people for up to 48 hours; it does not provide him with a free pass to ignore individuals' constitutional right to due process or grant him the authority to deny immigrants bail after the 48-hour clock has run out.
That is exactly what Baca is accused of doing in a federal lawsuit filed last week by five immigrants who recounted how deputies repeatedly rejected their attempts to post bail, and left them to languish in jail for days, weeks or, in Duncan Roy's case, for nearly three months without an opportunity to challenge their incarceration. Never mind that Roy, a British filmmaker, is in the U.S. legally and was ordered released on bail by a judge.